Rules for Combining Sentences

Updated August 18, 2016
using but in combining sentence example
    using but in combining sentence example
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Combining sentences is a necessary part of fluent communication in the English language. However, with all of the transitions, subjects, predicates, verbs, and verbals to consider, it's easy to become overwhelmed. But sentence combining doesn’t need to be a chore! Keep reading for various techniques to combine different types of sentences.

Combining Independent Clauses

Independent clauses are essentially two full sentences that could stand on their own. In other words, they don't depend on another clause to allow them to make sense. They each have a subject and a verb.

These sentences must be combined with the use of a connecting word known as a coordinating conjunction. Some popular conjunctions often used to achieve this purpose are known as FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). Each expresses something different, so use them wisely!

  • for – expresses causation or result.

    Independent clauses: They went upstairs. They did this because it was bedtime.

    Combined sentence: They went upstairs, for it was bedtime.

  • and – also or in addition.

    Independent clauses: Bryan went to the store. He bought new tires.

    Combined sentence: Bryan went to the store and bought new tires.

  • nor – an additional negative idea (usually paired with the word neither)

    Independent clauses: She doesn’t like school. She doesn’t like being at home.

    Combined sentence: She neither likes school nor being at home.

  • but – expresses an opposite or different point of view.

    Independent clauses: It was a good idea. It was a dangerous idea.

    Combined sentence: It was a good but dangerous idea.

  • or – reflects an additional point of view; the presence of choice (sometimes paired with the word either)

    Independent clauses: The cat could be outside. It might also be in the garage.

    Combined sentence: The cat is either outside or in the garage.

  • yet – expresses a contrast, similar to but.

    Independent clauses: I loved her. On the other hand, I was angry with her.

    Combined sentence: I loved her, yet I was angry with her.

  • so – indicates the progression of a thought.

    Independent clauses: They skipped school. This way, they would not have to take the test.

    Combined sentence: They skipped school so they could avoid the test.

You can also use subordinating conjunctions, such as because, since, although, and while to combine sentences. However, subordinating conjunctions only work when one of the sentences (the dependent clause) contains information that is less important than the main clause (the independent clause).


Using a Semicolon

The semicolon is one of the most feared punctuation marks used in the English language. But really, it’s just a sophisticated form of punctuation that replaces a conjunction or a period. A semicolon is useful when combining two independent clauses that are related to one another.

Try out some of the above sentences with a semicolon:

  • They went upstairs; it was bedtime.
  • It was a good idea; however, it was also dangerous.
  • The cat could be outside; it might also be in the garage.
  • I loved her; however, I was angry with her.

Semicolons are a nice way to provide variety in your sentence structure. But be sure to use them sparingly in each paragraph, as too many semicolons can make your writing feel repetitive.


Combining Sentences With the Same Subjects and Verbs

If two sentences have the same subject or verb, you can combine them with the conjunction and. Combining sentences with compound subjects or compound verbs makes your writing feel less wordy. Here are some examples of sentences with the same subjects, combined into one sentence:

  • Original Sentences: John graduated from high school. He aced all of his classes.

    Combined Sentence: John graduated from high school and aced all of his classes.

  • Original Sentences: I called my mother. I poured myself a cup of tea.

    Combined Sentence: I called my mother and poured myself a cup of tea.

  • Original Sentences: The mouse ran. It hid from the cat.

    Combined Sentence: The mouse ran and hid from the cat.

Check out these sentences that have the same verbs:

  • Original Sentences: Shauna attends community college. Her best friend attends the same school.

    Combined Sentence: Shauna and her best friend attend community college.

  • Original Sentences: My brother helps me with my homework. My mom also helps

    Combined Sentence: My brother and my mom help me with my homework.

  • Original Sentences: The music program brings a lot of positive press to the school. The athletic program also brings positive press.

    Combined Sentence: The music program and the athletic program bring positive press to the school.

Notice that subjects, verbs, and independent clauses all have something in common. Combining sentences can omit unnecessary words, making your writing more concise and less repetitive.


Vary Your Sentence Structure

With these simple rules for combining sentences, you can now combine sentences confidentially to make your speech and stories much more interesting. Readers enjoy a variety of sentences in written work. For ideas about bringing sentences together in the classroom, read an article that details different ways to teach sentence combining.